Irish government challenge to UK legacy laws would not derail relations – Gove
Any potential Irish government legal challenge against the UK’s contentious legacy laws would not derail improving relations between Dublin and London, Michael Gove has insisted.
The Secretary of State for Levelling Up said he respected the sovereign right of Ireland to take a case against his government at the European Court of Human Rights.
The Irish government is deliberating on whether to mount an interstate case against the UK. It could also decide to support an existing legal challenge against the laws.
We restate our view that we don't believe that the approach that has been taken in terms of legacy is the right one
Ministers in Dublin are assessing legal advice on the issue from Attorney General Rossa Fanning.
The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act received royal assent in September despite widespread opposition from political parties, victims’ organisations in Northern Ireland and the Irish government.
Aspects of the laws include a limited form of immunity from prosecution for Troubles-related offences for those who co-operate with the new Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR).
The new Act will also halt future civil cases and legacy inquests.
Multiple Troubles victims and family members are supporting a legal challenge against aspects of the Act at Belfast High Court.
Mr Gove and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar were among senior politicians who attended a meeting of the British Irish Council in Dublin on Friday.
They were asked about the legacy issue at a post-meeting press conference.
“The legacy is a uniquely sensitive issue,” said Mr Gove.
“We know and understand the Irish government’s position, and we respect the autonomy of the decision-making process within the Irish government.
“We, I think it is clear, believe it would be preferable not for a case to be taken forward. But that’s a decision for the Irish government and it in no way leads to any deterioration or difficulty in any of the other conversations that we have.
“Because we respect Ireland’s sovereign right in this regard, and we continue to work well with the Irish government in so many other areas.”
Mr Varadkar said he and coalition colleagues had yet to make a decision on the legal advice.
“We’re still considering it,” he said.
“And, obviously, we’ll speak to the British government again before making any decisions, any final decisions.
“The relationship and working relationship, I think, between the Irish government and the UK government has improved considerably, largely because of the Windsor protocol (on post-Brexit trade) and the Prime Minister’s considerable diplomatic achievement, I believe, in being able to secure that with the European Commission.
“So that’s always going to be part of our considerations too.
“But, above all, we restate our view that we don’t believe that the approach that has been taken in terms of legacy is the right one.”
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